Russia does recognise the territorial integrity of Georgia, but as regards the status of the Georgian autonomous republic of South Ossetia, the situation here is such that the baby is already walking and cannot be stopped, believes Professor Valery Kadokhov, Doctor of Economics, who is a member of the Federation Council from the parliament of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania and first deputy chairman of the Federation Council's committee on federal affairs and regional policy.
The situation around South Ossetia, exacerbated by Georgia's new leadership, has returned possible ways of resolving this conflict to the agenda of the day, the parliamentarian writes in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
South Ossetia is usually compared with another Georgian autonomy - Adzharia - where President Mikhail Saakashvili's government recently established its control. But, Kadokhov believes, the confrontation in South Ossetia cannot be measured by any Adzharian yardsticks if only because it has no ruling quasi-feudal clan.
The South Ossetian republic has been in existence for fifteen years now and in the intervening period has seen several leaders succeed each other on a legal and democratic basis, voted into office either by the supreme representative body of authority or by a national poll. In this respect, South Ossetia is more like a normal state than Georgia, where all the elected presidents have been deposed and the regular doctoring of electoral rolls has helped the organisers get whatever results they want.
In general, the author believes, no democracy and, still less, no stable and robust state, not even with some semblance of elementary police order, is evolving in Georgia. The result is provincial authoritarianism in the Central American style that strongly tends to slither into an ultra-nationalist dictatorship. Unsurprisingly, these distinctive features of Georgia's statehood have not evoked any great desire in South Ossetians to co-exist with this regime within the framework of one state. On the contrary, they have only expressed their categorical rejection of this idea.
It should be noted that the South Ossetian conflict can be only relatively qualified as an example of separatism. A separatist-minded elite, as a rule, seeks to establish a separate state. But South Ossetia, since it secured some form of national self-determination, has always visualised itself as part of Russia (the Soviet Union). And while there has been some recent "adjustment" of public opinion to the divided existence of Ossetians on the two sides of the Greater Caucasian Ridge, one nevertheless has to be well aware of this situation as a glaring historical injustice, as an abortive experiment staged on a united nation in the 20th century. This injustice needs correcting, says the Ossetian academic and deputy.
The tragic experience of the early 1990s, which remains fresh in the memory, stands in the way of any form of co-operation between South Ossetia and the Georgian authorities. And this will not be overcome until Georgia's present rulers condemn the patent examples of the policy of genocide pursued against Ossetians by the Georgian state. But the current authorities are not thinking of giving up the historical legacy of Gamsakhurdia-Shevardnadze, which means trampling upon the peoples' right to self-determination, allowing peaceful towns to be besieged, mass killings of civilians, mass deportations and expulsions on ethnic grounds, co-operation with groups of international terrorists, and much more.
Western states and inter-governmental organisations, which are helping to maintain Georgia, would do well to abandon their double moral and political standards concerning the policy of suppressing national minorities as followed by the Georgian state. For example, they could bring pressure to bear on Georgia to fulfil its obligations to the Council of Europe about the return of Meskhetian Turks, who are causing many problems in the Kuban area, to their historical homeland, as is practised in the Balkans, etc.
Enjoying the impunity and connivance of Western countries, Georgia's secret services and Georgian propaganda bodies have opted for provocation as a method to deal with South Ossetia. Provoking inter-ethnic conflicts is perhaps a compulsive political need of the Georgian leadership. Although the present leadership has been in office for some considerable time, the country has not resolved any of its economic problems. The entire state policy has amounted to establishing central government control over the deep-sea port of Batumi. The government is also "pro-active" in extorting financial resources from members of the previous ruling clan. In such conditions, naturally, Georgia's new regime, populist in its nature, sorely needs an external enemy - Russia, Ossetians, you name it.
So, the author suggests, it is high time Russia changed from demonstrating its weakness to demonstrating its strength vis-a-vis Georgia, which is making provocative moves, such as the detention of a Russian convoy in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone.
Russia must not repeat in the Caucasus its experience of pulling out of the Balkan conflict in 1999, says the parliamentarian. The task now is to stop the sabre-rattling around the republic and freeze the current status quo of South Ossetia. However, speaking of Balkan analogues, why was Yugoslavia dismembered in the name of "human rights and the freedom of nations" while Georgia has to be saved time and again from its eternal disease - political fragmentation? Why not force the Georgian leadership to agree to the federal principle for Georgia, a principle thriving in half the world's developed countries?